Is it Safe to Drink After Having a Baby?

By Chelsea Skaggs, founder of Postpartum Together

After giving up alcohol through your pregnancy, you may wonder when it is safe to enjoy a drink again. If you are breastfeeding, there are additional factors to consider. It is important to know how alcohol can get into your breast milk and how long you should wait between drinks and feedings to be safe.  

Studies and opinions on alcohol after birth and while breastfeeding are varied. An American Academy of Pediatrics study indicates that breastfeeding while lactating may cause cognitive impairments when the child is around the age of 6. Another study indicates that alcohol consumption can inhibit lactation.  In some European countries, dark malt or stout beers were traditionally recommended to new moms for milk production. So how do you safely make a decision for yourself as a mom who could use a glass of wine or drink with friends?   

Generally speaking, one drink is thought to be low-risk for the baby. Read below for how each kind of drink is measured for alcohol content.  

Can Alcohol Get into Breastmilk?   

If you choose to breastfeed your new baby, what you eat and drink becomes part of the baby’s milk. This means you want to be careful about any anything you put into your system, including alcohol. While alcohol enters a woman’s bloodstream , the alcohol within the breast milk parallels that in the mother’s blood.Alcohol levels in breast milk and blood peak around 30-90 minutes depending on factors like food and water intake, body composition and more. The size and age of your baby are also factors when considering the alcohol that may be passed through breastmilk. Before 3 months, the baby’s liver is not fully developed and may be more vulnerable.   

How Much Alcohol is in Your Drink?

The alcohol content in drinks varies. Usually you can see the alcohol percentage on a pre-packaged drink such as a bottle of beer, wine or liquor. If you are receiving a mixed drink from a bartender or friend, you want to monitor the amount of alcohol going into your drink.[Text  

Per the CDC, one standard drink is considered 

  • 12 ounces of beer (5% beer)   
  • 5 ounces of wine (12% wine)   
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor (40% liquor)  
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% malt liquor)   

The rate at which your body metabolizes alcohol depends on your body composition . For any mother, drinking more volume means it takes more time for the alcohol to leave your system.   

Should I Pump and Dump?

Manual breast pump and bottle with breast milk on the background of mother holding in her hands and breastfeeding baby. Maternity and baby care.

When you drink alcohol, your body generally takes 1-2 hours to digest the alcohol in one drink. According to Postpartum Push Medical team, if you pump or feed then have a drink right after, by the next time you need to feed/pump the vast majority of the alcohol will have been digested and is safe for the baby.  If your baby is not yet on a regular feeding schedule or is cluster feeding, you want to evaluate whether or not you can safely have enough time for the alcohol to pass through your system before feeding your baby again. Many people say if you are safe enough to drive, you are safe enough to feed, although this has not been backed up by the AAP or CDC.  

If you are choosing to have a drink while breastfeeding, the best method is to feed and then have your drink. This way you are maximizing the time your body has to metabolize and pass the alcohol through your blood stream and the breast milk.  

Does Beer Increase Milk Supply?

Some women and a number of  European providers say that certain forms of alcohol increase breast milk production when consumed in moderation. This would be the equivalent of one malt or stout beer.  The belief is that these beers are a form of a galactagogue. Galactagogues are foods believed to increase milk supply such as oats and grains, nuts and seeds, dark greens and other foods. Fenugreek, for example, is a galactagogue, which some women and providers swear by and others avoid at all costs. The practice of consuming beer in order to increase milk supply is not supported by the AAP,  CDC,  or most recognized American health organizations. 

Personally, I found that one stout beer (think Guinness) right after feeding had a positive effect on my milk production.  Whether it was the galactagogues or it was the relaxing impact that allowed me to stress less over the numbers, but my measured output as an exclusive pumper increased with one drink. When surveying my audience of moms, I received mixed feedback and results on the effectiveness of beer as a galactagogue. Like many parts of new motherhood, our bodies are very different and the experiences we have can be too.  

Safety and Drinking Alcohol

Regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding, general safety and caretaking should be top of mind when it comes to your decisions regarding alcohol usage. Abstaining from alcohol throughout the months of pregnancy can make you more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol intake. For the safety of your baby, it is strongly recommended that you do not co-sleep after alcohol consumption.  

Ultimately the choices about alcohol consumption and safety come down to you and your support team. Consult with your medical providers and the trusted health organizations in your area so that you can make a decision that you feel confident in.  

Postpartum Together founder Chelsea Skaggs

Chelsea Skaggs

Chelsea Skaggs is a postpartum advocate and coach who is committed to helping women kick the pressure to be “Pinterest Perfect” and have real, raw conversations to acknowledge and empower the postpartum experience. She provides small group coaching, eCourses, online communities and helps other women start motherhood-centered businesses. She believes that normalizing and empowering all the changes in life after baby can change the world and leads that effort at postpartumtogether.com.